Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Category: Business Development (page 3 of 88)

5 Useful tips to make your next project fly!

If you’re thinking of launching a new product, service or business, here are 5 tips to help you get it right.

  1. Great ideas are not anointed. They fly or die based on merit and hard work. If you believe in what you’re doing, if the research and numbers stack up, go for it. This will help you.
  2. Pick your clients or customers deliberately. Then, focus your marketing message so that it’s 100% relevant to this group. If you don’t know who your ideal clients or customers are, you’re not ready to launch. This will help you.
  3. Don’t sell something, if people can buy it from Amazon for less.
  4. If you sell a commodity product or service, customise it. If you’re 1 of 30 accountants in your area, give people a valid reason why they should hire you, rather than an equally qualified competitor. Tell people why they should eat at your restaurant and not a similarly priced competitor’s place. This will help you.
  5. Embrace blogging or newsletters. Give the marketplace an insight into you and your business. Tell them your story. When they feel like they know you, you’re far less of a gamble to them, than hiring or buying from a stranger. I focus on blogging. Here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.

I hope you found those tips useful. More importantly, I hope you find something there, which you can put into action.

Stop working for low quality clients. Seriously. Stop it!

If you are tired of working for low value clients, I have an idea I would like to share with you. It has helped me attract the best clients, avoid the worst clients and build an extremely successful business. It can do the same for you.

A very deliberate choice

Before deciding to accept a new client, I ask myself the following question:

Is this prospective client worthy of my best work?

  • If the answer is Yes, I accept them as a client and provide them with the best work I am capable of.
  • If the answer is No, I don’t work with them.
  • If I agree to work with a client and later find they lied to me, to make me say Yes, I fire them.

Here’s the payback

As a direct result, I have never had a cash flow problem. I have never had to face a client I didn’t enjoy working with and always had the freedom to do my very best work. By being able to do my best work, my clients get great results, so my client retention is exceptionally high. Equally, my clients and former clients are a constant source of high quality referrals.

The opposite approach is to accept any client who says they want to work with you.

  • To work for clients who pay you late and ruin your cash flow.
  • To work for clients who are over demanding.
  • To work for clients who take the joy away from your work.

Every business owner, including you, makes the decision. You either decide to work with the people worthy of your best work or to compromise and work for those who are not.

Beggars can’t be choosers, Jim!

When I share this idea with business owners, the typical answer from those who will work with anyone, is that beggars can’t be choosers.

The thing is:

  • They are business owners, not beggars.
  • They are already choosing, by choosing to work for low value clients.

High value clients lead to more high value clients, as they recommend you to their friends and you become known for servicing the quality end of the market.

Low value clients lead to more low value clients, as you become pigeon-holed as servicing the cheap end of your marketplace.

In short, if your current client choices are not working for you, it’s time to try another approach.

PS: If you want me to help you get this right, read this.

Behind the scenes: The tools I use every day

I often get asked about the tools I use for my daily work. The image above is pretty-much the standard set-up for me… extremely minimal, with everything I need and nothing I don’t need.

Here’s some more detail, including the hardware and software I use.

Hardware

I use MacBooks now for all my production work. I have a MacBook Pro for the office and a MacBook Air for writing on the move. For 20 years I was a Windows user, however, I switched to a Mac last summer and have never looked back. The design, usability, portability and speed of these machines makes them ideal for me.

I can get an idea out of my head, without having to wait or wrestle with the hardware / software. They boot up from cold in just 13 seconds and everything ‘just works’ without a hitch.

Interestingly, as I always bought high end Windows machines, I have saved hundreds by switching to Macs. Macs are only more expensive than PC’s, if you’re switching from low or mid-range PC’s. My last Lenovo Think Pad cost almost as much as my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air combined.

Thinking

I’m extremely visual, so I  have a notepad with me all the time and use it to capture ideas or simply doodle, whilst I am thinking.

It seems that the physical act of moving a pen or pencil on paper, aids my creativity. I keep all my old notepads and often go back to them months or years later, for inspiration or ideas. I love fountain pens and fine tip drawing pens. I use lots of different coloured ink. I also use mechanical pencils.

Software

Here’s the main software I use for work.

I use WordPress for blogging. There are other blogging platforms out there but none provide me with the flexibility or functionality I need, other than WordPress. It’s the only blogging platform I recommend.

I use Instagram, though in a slightly different way to most people. I use it for inspiration. I follow lots of designers and creators and often get inspired by seeing their imagery. You can join me on Instagram here.

I use iA Writer for most of my writing. It’s a distraction-free writing program, which presents you with a totally clear computer screen – no menu bars, just a 100% blank canvas.

I use Evernote mainly for capturing ideas from websites. It’s also useful as a cloud based way to organise notes, sounds and images.

I use Skype for client calls. I work with business owners worldwide and Skype allows me to not only speak with my clients, but share screens, video conference, share links and use a whiteboard together.

I use Microsoft Office. I have clients who hire me to write for them and they tend to use Word, so I use Word when writing for them. I also prefer Outlook to any of the Mac email apps.

I use PicMonkey for the graphics you see in my blog posts and social network posts. I use the premium version, though the free version does everything I need. I just like to pay developers, when I use their work. I wrote a short review of PicMonkey here.

That’s it.

Of course, it’s what we do with the tools we use that matters. However, we can make things a lot easier by selecting the correct tools for the job. I hope you found something there, which helps you with your work flow.

Main photo: Alejandro Escamilla

How to lift your business to a whole new level

If your business has been spinning it’s wheels or it’s growth is slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

I’m going to show you how to get your business flying, based on 2 questions that every successful business needs to answer. Yes, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

Here are the questions:

  1. What do I want to achieve with my business?
  2. Am I willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners have no clear idea of what they want to achieve. They say things like they want a successful business or they want to be wealthy, but they never get specific. Here’s the thing: You can’t know if you are on track or not, with no clear destination.

The key, is to get specific. Describe in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

A great way to get clear on this, is to ask yourself the following question: If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down!

Avoid general terms and use specifics. Also, use numbers in your answer whenever possible.

For example, include things like:

  • How much you want your business to generate in revenue and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • How much you want to earn.
  • How much you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

Then, describe things like the type of clients or customers you want, what your typical work day would look like and where your business would be located, etc.

Build as clear a picture as possible and include everything that matters to you.

Once you have the specifics written down, it’s time to answer the next question.

Are you willing to pay the price?

The challenge with this question, is that business owners tend to give the wrong answer. We tend to say we work hard and that we work long hours.

That is not what the question asks!

The question is about our willingness to do what’s required in order to succeed. It asks us if we’re willing to leave our comfort zones… again and again. Paying the price for success means doing 100% of what’s required, not cherry-picking the things we feel comfortable with. It means committing to pay the price of success in advance, with no guarantees.

Here’s why we make the extra effort

It looks like this:

  • Success belongs to those who take time to decide exactly what they want to achieve and who then determine to pay the price for success.
  • Those with less clarity and less commitment, find themselves working hard and making too little progress.

Interestingly, although the difference in the rewards between those approaches is immeasurable, the extra effort required is relatively small.

The good news is that as you become more familiar with leaving your comfort zone, it gets easier and easier. Equally, the motivation to pay the price becomes greater, when you start to see the results and rewards coming in.

Tip: I recommend you read this — What everybody ought to know about Comfort Zones.

How to build a great business, doing things YOUR way

If you want to work with better clients and never need to compete based on fees again, here’s something to consider.

Doing things your way

The moment you stop offering a similar service to your competitors, you stop competing with them. The great news here, is that no matter what industry you are in, you can do things your way and build a highly profitable niche of your own.

Here are 4 examples, from very different industries:

  • The accountant, who set up a forum for his clients, so they can network together, help one another and buy from one another.
  • The coffee shop owner, who offers customers poetry evenings and creative writing events.
  • The dentist, who provides classes for people who have an irrational fear of dentists.
  • The gardener, who not only keeps your garden looking great, but also provides all the garden consumables you need and delivers them.

How to make it work for you

Think about your ideal client. Consider their challenges and needs. Now, think of a new service that could help them with those challenges. Alternatively, look for additional, valuable elements, which you can add to one or more of your existing services.

Tip: A great place to find ideas you can use, is to look outside your industry for inspiration. Something that’s extremely common in one industry, is often unheard of in another.

If you need a little help getting your ideas into action, I strongly suggest you read this.

How to get all the help you and your business need

I’d like to share an idea with you today. It’s about how to get all the help you and your business will ever need.

Of course, we see people doing it wrong every day. Strangers, asking us to do things for them.

  • They ask us to connect with them on Linkedin.
  • They ask us to tell our friends about their business.
  • They ask us to retweet their Twitter messages.
  • They ask us, via a spam email, to subscribe to the newsletter they just sent us.

The list goes on and on… strangers making selfish demands.

Selfish demands don’t work

Selfish demands succeed only in irritating people. I receive around a dozen emails a day, from total strangers who expect me to write blog posts about their product or service. I refuse. Always. Like most people, I don’t respond positively to selfish demands from strangers.

So, why is it that some people have no problem getting all the help they need?

Why we eagerly helped Jenny and felt great about it

When a friend of mine launched her new business, she was inundated with people who wanted to help. If you knew Jenny, you’d know why. She’s one of the most helpful people I have ever met.

The launch of her business was an opportunity for me and many others, to repay her kindness and support.

The power of reciprocity

This need to return someone’s kindness is sometimes referred to as reciprocity. And it’s extremely powerful. It’s why the process of giving and receiving, starts with the giving part. It’s why we earn the money… then get paid.

Selfish demands fail because they attempt to do the opposite. When the guy emails me and asks me to post his infographic on my blog, it’s 100% about him.

  • He gets exposure to my amazing readers.
  • He gets a valuable link, from my blog to his site.
  • He gets his company name in front of thousands of people.
  • All I get is the penalty of linking my blog and reputation to a stranger — A stranger I know nothing about, other than he’s the kind of asshole, who spams people with selfish demands.

Those who demand strangers to do things for them, face a lot of  disappointment. Not only do they fail to get what they demand, they get something they didn’t ask for — a toxic reputation.

A better mindset for business owners

The smartest people are always building relationships with others. They keenly look for ways to contribute. They do this, without knowing (or caring) if they will need that person’s help in the future. That’s the mindset, my friend Jenny has.

In short: Before you expect people to be motivated to help you or your business, make sure you’ve invested in them, first. Remember, give and take starts with the giving part.

PS: If you found today’s post interesting, I recommend you read this: 3 Mistakes that make you look bad and damage your business.

Are you using the right kind of marketing?

Marketing, internet marketing

Many small business owners make the mistake of using the wrong type of marketing for their business.

For example, did you know there is a huge difference between Internet marketing sites and marketing sites? Well, there is. If you’re using ideas from the wrong type of site, you’re wasting your time and your money. As you will see from an example I am about to share, it can damage your reputation too.

First, here’s what you need to know about these VERY different types of marketing site.

Internet marketing sites

Internet marketing sites focus on how to make money online. They mainly sell (and show you how to sell), affiliate marketing products, software, online courses, ebooks, premium forums, etc.

They usually market their products to you… and show you how to make money, doing what they do. That’s why there are so many of these sites out there. They are intended for people who want to sell low priced, Internet only products or services.

Marketing sites

Marketing sites, including Jim’s Marketing Blog, are a lot less common. They focus on ideas to help you increase sales and grow a successful business. Most, like my own, don’t cover affiliate marketing or “make money online” products or services at all.

The wrong type of marketing for an accountant

I was prompted to write about this, after being emailed by a new reader. She’s an accountant, who started her business just over a year ago. She contacted me after a marketing consultant identified why her marketing wasn’t working. She wanted me to share her experience with you, to stop others from making the same mistake.

Here’s an excerpt from her email, published with her permission:

“I read a ton of big name internet marketing blogs and did what they said; at least the things that seemed to make sense to me. Anyhow I invested over $2000 on a bunch of marketing software, on-line courses and forum memberships. None worked for me. Finally I instructed a local marketing guy to get expert help. He took a look at my website and emails and said “woah!!”

[...] He explained that I had been marketing my service like some nasty $50 affiliate product!!”

She ended up with a site that’s hurting her business and damaging her professional reputation. I took a look at her site and here’s what I saw:

  • Pop-up boxes.
  • Blog comments from affiliate marketers, using SEO loaded keywords instead of their names.
  • Nasty looking ads for 2 affiliate products.
  • Sensationalist blog post headlines, designed to attract drive-by readers.
  • Pinch pages, to sell her services.
  • An automated Twitter account, which she told me is part of a Twitter resharing network.
  • References to joining her list instead of becoming part of her community.

All in all, she had wasted thousands and done nothing more than make her site look cheap. She’s now in the process of unpicking a year’s worth of damage to her reputation and her business.

Use the right type of marketing for your business

The type of marketing used to sell cheap software or affiliate products, is totally different from the kind of marketing required to sell high fee, specialist, one-to-one services. The level of trust required to hire a coach, accountant, lawyer, therapist or consultant is huge.

When a service provider wants to attract new, high quality clients, the make money online approach to marketing is not only ineffective, it’s toxic.

In short: Match the marketing you use, to the type of business you want. Unless you sell Internet marketing products or affiliate products, think twice before using ideas from Internet marketing sites.

How to attract customers… from your competitors!

So, you’d like more customers or clients. The question is, why should they switch to you, rather than carry on with their current provider?

Why leave their comfort zone?

It takes effort for people to switch from one provider to another. The motivation to switch to you needs to be compelling. It needs to inspire them to leave their comfort zone — to dump their familiar, safe, current provider and risk the unknown.

We know that being a little less expensive, a little faster or a little better isn’t enough. Why? Because marginal differences have very little pull. People need to see an obvious, clear, meaningful reason to switch providers.

This will help you get it right

Take a look at your business from the mindset of a prospective client or customer. Look at the reasons you provide, to motivate them to leave their comfort zone and switch to you.

Considering the perceived risk involved with them switching providers, are the reasons you give truly compelling enough? If not, what meaningful, measurable benefit could you add, which would make switching to you feel:

  • Less risky.
  • Less hassle.
  • More beneficial to them than staying with their current provider.

TIP – Every provider claims to offer great customer service and to go the extra mile for their clients. Focus on developing a meaningful, measurable and motivating difference. Get this right and it can be a game-changer for your business. Yes, it’s that important.

PS: Here’s how to stop your competitors taking clients from YOUR business: How to use the lock-in effect to retain your clients.

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